Two Conferences in France July 8-20, 2014



            In July of 2014 I spent two weeks in France attending two psychology conferences.  The first was the International Congress of Psychology in Paris. The second was the International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology in Reims. At both conferences, I presented results of my research on Intimate Relationships that is online at, in collaboration with colleagues around the world.  I also did some sightseeing in both cities.  I will describe my travel to Paris, my impressions of changes in France since my previous two visits, the first conference, sightseeing in Paris, travel to Reims, the second conference, sightseeing in Reims, and travel back home.  Photo numbers refer to 43 pictures that I have posted at


Travel to Paris

            I had a direct flight from Los Angeles to Paris on a double decker plane (photo 1).  I had booked it several months ahead so I could have choice of flights at lowest fares, and reserve a seat in an exit row with no seat directly in front of me.  Due to my long legs, I am miserable in a regular airline seat even on a short flight.  I brought a book to read on the first part of the flight, then drank some wine and took a 3 mg. melatonin tablet after dinner to get a couple of hours sleep. 

            Melatonin is what your brain stem releases to put you to sleep at night, and hence is safer than other sleep medications.  Sleeping a couple hours on a long flight greatly reduces jetlag after I arrive.  It has only been possible since I bought some expensive noise-cancelling Bose headphones that greatly reduce the engine noise that previously kept me awake.  They also allow me to hear conversations in movies, but there werenÕt any movies on that flight that I was interested in watching.  After I woke up I read the Paris pages that I had xeroxed from my Let's Go Europe travel guide, and listed the places I wanted to see and their subway stops.

            When I arrived at the airport in Paris, I withdrew Euros from an ATM machine, which is more convenient than cashing travelers checks in the past. I had found and booked online a bus that I took directly to the convention center called the Palais de Congrˇs, where I checked into the conference and obtained my badge and program book.  At its Metro subway stop I bought a weeklong transportation pass to avoid the hassles of buying tickets for each trip, and took the Metro three stops to Explanade de La Dˇfense (photo 2) and walked a block to my hotel and checked in.

             I got the password for the hotel wifi and read my email on my 7 inch Kindle Fire HD, which is inexpensive and great for reading e-books, documents, and email, and okay for watching movies, but not great for writing and editing even with the Bluetooth keyboard I bought for it.  I can also read email on my Droid 4 cellphone, which works around the world and has a keyboard, but I only do that when wifi is available, since the roaming charges for data are extremely expensive.  Voice calls are expensive too, but text messages are only 50 cents, so I use text messages when wifi is not available.  I then took the Metro back to the convention center for the conference Opening Ceremony.

            My hotel, the skyscrapers around La Defense (photo 3), and the convention center, were modern buildings that could have been in a big city anywhere in the world.  So to convince myself that I was in Paris, after the Opening Ceremony, I took the Metro downtown to see Notre Dame cathedral (photo 4) and nearby buildings with traditional French architecture (photo 5).  It was raining, so instead of walking around more after dinner at a nearby restaurant, I took a boat ride on the Seine River where I saw more familiar architecture as well as the Eiffel Tower (photo 6). 


Impressions of Changes in France

            My first visit to Paris was in the summer of 1967 when I was a graduate student travelling by train around Europe on a Eurail Pass with three friends.  At that time each country had its own currency, so it was a hassle to cash travelers checks and change currency each time you crossed a border, planning to have enough cash but not too much cash in one currency before crossing to another.  

            Since there was no Internet for booking ahead of time, upon arrival in a train station we would telephone inexpensive hotels and ask if rooms were available.  Youth hostels at that time had curfews that were too early for us, while now there are backpacker hostels that cater to college students and older adults, sometimes with noisy bars. 

Few people outside of the UK spoke English in 1967, while now young people are studying English everywhere in the world due to global business, movies, and the Internet.  I had studied French for a year in graduate school, after two years of German as an undergraduate, and three years of Spanish in high school, so I was able to get by all over Western Europe, since many people spoke more than one European language even if they didnÕt speak English.  Before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, travel to communist Eastern Europe was limited, although I was able to visit East Berlin for a day through Checkpoint Charlie.

This time in Paris, I would greet and order in French, and waiters and clerks would respond in English based on my accent.  However, the older clerk in my hotel in Reims spoke only French, and some museums had only French while popular ones had English alongside French.

Another big change was seeing gourmet hamburgers on French menus in Reims that cost about $20 (photo 7).  In 1967, you couldnÕt buy a hamburger anywhere in Europe.  The closest was a ground pork sandwich in Frankfurt, Germany, near an American army base. French restaurants now serve American-style pizza, whereas the only pizzas available in 1967 in Italian restaurants consisted of a thin crust with a small amount of tomato sauce, and no cheese and no pepperoni. 

In 1967 no Europeans wore jeans, except those who bought them from young American travelers. Now the majority of men in Paris and Reims were wearing jeans, and in tourist areas only a few wore the tailored slacks that were the norm in the past. 

            For taking pictures in 1967, I had to carry many roles of film, and then had the expense of film developing when I returned.  Now I carry a Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS digital camera, which has 16 megapixels and is able to take photos in low light, so it is great for taking photos of PowerPoint slides at conferences and art in museums that allow photos without flash.  And the photos can be stored on CDs instead of in albums that take up bookshelf space!

            My second trip to Paris was in January of 1992, when I spent five weeks introducing my family to major cities of Europe after spending fall semester on an exchange program in Copenhagen, Denmark.  While in Copenhagen I picked up the Danish attitude of Ņwork hard, play hard,Ó in contrast to the American Puritan attitude that having fun is sinful.  This changed my life, from being a workaholic to one who could have fun without feeling guilty about not being productive all the time.

            The biggest change I noticed in Paris in 1992 was the proliferation of Greek restaurants on the Left Bank of the Seine, along with the stands selling French crepes. That trip reinvigorated my travel bug, leading me to travel to a total of 50 countries so far.


First Conference in Paris

            At the Opening Ceremony, I learned that there were more than four thousand psychologists attending the conference, from all over the world (photo 8).  As a result, there were many sessions scheduled at the same times.  It was frustrating finding what was offered at a given time, since the program was separated into 16 divisions, which required looking at that time in each division. Among the many interesting research findings and psychological concepts were the following:

            Alzheimer's is not a single disease, but a combination of conditions influenced by both genetics and mental stimulation, that are not well predicted by early symptoms since some are part of normal aging.  Treatments to increase self-efficacy for obesity are more successful in increasing exercise than in reducing food intake. Self-efficacy refers to an individual's belief in one's own competency, while collective-efficacy refers to a group's belief in the group's competency.

            Religious orientation includes intrinsic motivation (e.g., relating to God) and extrinsic motivation (e.g., relating to a community).  Children of minority groups often pick up negative attitudes about their group, but prefer their own group by age 10. Prejudice is predicted by both Social Dominance Orientation (desire for in-group dominance and superiority) and Right Wing Authoritarianism (support for submission to authority). While 32 countries recognize same-sex marriages, 78 countries have imprisonment and 5 countries have the death penalty for same-sex activities. 

            A good journal article presents counter-intuitive, novel findings, and an excellent scientist/artist "can see things no one else can." Resilience, which is the ability to recover from setbacks, persevere when there are obstacles, and stay optimistic, is promoted in networks in which people give social support to each other. Levels of the hormone oxytocin, which promotes emotional bonding and empathy, are correlated with the personality trait of extraversion.

            My presentation was on correlates of sexual satisfaction, which my colleagues and I found to be similar across gender, sex of partner, marital status, and cultures in Europe, North America, and South America.  They include not only frequency of sexual activities, but also satisfaction with specific kinds of sexual activities, feelings of love, expressions of affection, feeling that the relationship is romantic, having few conflicts of any kind, self-disclosure to resolve problems, rating the partner as physically attractive and as having a sense of humor, overall relationship satisfaction, happiness, life satisfaction, and self-esteem.

            The conference dinner and dance was held in the Pavilion Dauphine (photo 993 by S. Obata), and was expensive and formal.


Sightseeing in Paris

            At the end of the third full day of conference sessions, I took the Metro to see the Eiffel Tower, expecting to take the elevator to the top.  But the line was an hour and a half long for those who had not purchased tickets in advance online.  So I explored the area across the Seine, and walked to the Arc de Triomphe.

            I then spent the next two days sightseeing.  I visited museums both familiar and unfamiliar to me, and saw many works by painters and sculptors that I like.  When I traveled around Europe in 1967, one of my friends knew a great deal about art, and provided me with a personal tour of major art museums in Western Europe.  I subsequently audited an art history class in graduate school to enrich my understanding.  I especially like art that captures and evokes emotional responses. Many museums allow photographs, as long as they are without flash, since flash fades paint as does sunlight.

            First stop was the Musˇe de L'Orangie which has a small number of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including huge murals of water lilies by Monet.  Next was the Musˇe du Louvre (photo 10), where I again saw Greek and Roman sculpture, the Mona Lisa (11) in the back of a crowded room (photo 12), and Dutch paintings of village life that I like.

            Then I went to Musˇe Rodin, which has many sculptures that I appreciate, such as the Thinker and The Kiss.  And last that day was the new Musˇe du Qaui Branly (photo 13), which has artifacts of tribal cultures around the world.  It had a special exhibit on the history of tattoos, from island cultures, to prisons and the military, to modern times, in various geographical areas.

            The following day I went early to the Musˇe d'Orsay, which was wise since it had long lines when I left (photo 14).  It had a whole floor of wonderful sculptures by Carpeaux, and another floor of French Impressionist paintings.  It did not allow any photographs or I would have taken many.  Next was the unfamiliar Musˇe Carnavalet on the history of Paris, but it only had paintings and furniture with labels in French and no explanation of the history, which was disappointing.

            Next I waited in line to see the Sainte-Chapelle again (photo 15), with its beautiful stained glass windows (photos 16 & 17).  But the rose window, which is the crown jewel, had been removed for repairs.  I then waited in a long line in the rain to enter Notre Dame cathedral (photo 18), which also has many beautiful stained glass windows (photos 19 & 20).  By setting my camera 2 f-stops darker, it doesn't overexpose the windows.

            That evening I took the Metro to Montmartre, and hiked up the hill to Sacre Coeur cathedral (photo 21).  It didn't allow photos inside, but the best feature is the view of the city (photo 22).  After eating dinner at a cafe nearby, I found that there was a bus that would take me down to a Metro station at Pigalle.



Travel to Reims

            The next morning I dragged my luggage through Metro stations making three connections to Gare de LÕEst (train station of the east).  My suitcase with wheels had my clothes, which are easier to replace, that I check on planes. And I wore a daypack loaded with essentials (such as tickets, travel guide pages, medicines, electronics, my jacket, and an umbrella) that I carry on planes.  I would leave that loaded daypack locked in my lodging, and carry a smaller daypack with fewer items, while at conference sessions or sightseeing. 

            I had booked a high-speed train to Reims, and had printed my ticket at home.  But I wasnÕt able to print tickets at home for my return trip from Reims to the airport, so I got them from a ticket agent in the Paris train station to save time before an early train in Reims the following week.

            In Reims, I picked up a map from the tourist office next to the train station, and walked three blocks to my hotel along a pedestrian street filled with sidewalk cafes (photo 23).  I had reserved a hotel for one night since the conference at a university didnÕt begin until the next day, when I would be staying in a university residence hall. 

            After checking in and reading my email, I had lunch at a sidewalk cafe, then walked several blocks to see the cathedral.  It had architecture (photo 24) similar to Notre Dame in Paris, and had beautiful stained glass windows (photo 25), including one by Marc Chagall (photo 26).  It also had photos on easels showing the bombing of the cathedral during World War I (photo 27).

            Walking through the city I was surprised that all of the stores were closed on a Monday afternoon, until I remembered that July 14 was Bastille Day, the day that the Bastille Prison was stormed during the French Revolution. 

            I walked to the Cryptoportique, which the city map described as having underground Roman arches, but it was just a cavernous room.  The map also mentioned Roman arches that were more impressive (photo 28), back by the train station. They were next to a park that had a portable carnival with arcades and rides for children (photo 29). 

             When I returned to my hotel, I saw a familiar colleague eating dinner at a cafˇ in front of it, and joined him for dinner.  He was with a group of graduate students for whom he was teaching a summer research workshop, and he invited me to attend their presentations the next morning before the conference began. Meanwhile I went with them to see the sound and light show that was projected on the front of the cathedral (photos 30, 31, 32, 33) at 11 PM every night in the summer.  I saw it again two other evenings with groups of friends who had not seen it yet.  I didn't find any venues for live music nearby, like I usually enjoy when I travel, except for a stage on the street on Bastille Day with singers screeching into the microphone (photo 34).

            After watching the workshop presentations the next morning, which were impressive, I picked up my luggage and took a 20-minute ride on a modern tram (photo 35) to the university. I checked into the conference and moved into the residence hall (photo 36).  After reading my email and relaxing, I took the tram back downtown and bought a towel in a department store (photo 37), then walked to the cathedral for the Opening Reception, which was in a courtyard next to it. Since I was early, I explored the Palais du Tau next door, which has exhibits about the history of the coronation of French kings in Reims.


Second Conference in Reims

            At the Opening Reception (photo 38) I saw several people that I knew from previous conferences, and later saw many more throughout the conference, since I had been to a dozen IACCP conferences around the world before. This IACCP conference was the largest, with nine hundred participants, whereas the previous largest was five hundred. But it was still much easier to meet people at IACCP than at larger conferences, and I often see them more than once throughout the conference.  Some of the many interesting findings and concepts presented included the following:

             Not surprisingly, for students studying abroad, language proficiency is the most important factor in cultural adjustment. Analyses of social networks found that U.S. students often link groups of international students who interact most with those from their own country.  Aggression is influenced by sensitivity to frustrations and by sensitivity to provocations by others, which vary by gender and culture.

There are now 1.28 billion active Facebook users, with 757 million daily users spending an average of 8.3 hours per day, which takes away study time and decreases academic performance.  

            Autonomy (being self-governing, emphasized in Western cultures) and Relatedness (being connected to others, emphasized in Eastern cultures) are not opposites but are both required for optional functioning.  Oxytocin receptors in the brain have three genotypes, AA AG GG, with G associated with more empathy, more prosocial behavior, and less autism. Variations in dopamine receptors relate to risk-taking, stimulation seeking, reward seeking, and donating.

            In bilinguals, switching languages tends to switch patterns of thinking.  In Australia, it is common to abbreviate words, such as cozzie for bathing costume and truckie for truck driver, which expresses informality and being part of the ingroup.  Muslim headscarves have different styles, which have differing political meanings in Turkey. Prejudice tends to be along two dimensions, warmth or threat, and competence. 

            Competition and cooperation are not opposites, since cooperation within groups is necessary for competition between groups.  Employee voicing of improvements, alarm, and dissent can be people related or task related.  Children's cultural values have been measured using pictures with labels. Schwartz' cultural values have been subdivided from 10 to 19, with the same circular groupings of self-enhancement, conservatism, self-transcendence, and openness to change. The non-religious are now the fourth largest religious category in the world, yet polls report the most prejudice against atheists, who are distrusted.

            My presentation was on correlates of conflict in intimate relationships, which my colleagues and I found to be similar across gender, sex of partner, marital status, and cultures in Europe, North America, and South America.  Among those married, the extent of conflict was highest for poor communication, time management, relatives, money, sexual activities or desires, and household chores.

            The conference dinner and dance was held in Les Halles du Boulingrin (photo 39), was included in the conference fee, and was a lot of fun.


Sightseeing in Reims

            After the conference ended about noon on Saturday, I did some more sightseeing in Reims.  I walked past the train station to the Musˇe de la Reddition, where German generals signed their surrender to General Eisenhower ending World War II on May 7, 1945 (photo 40). The Germans wanted to allow time for soldiers and civilians to cross behind America lines to escape from communist Russia, but Eisenhower insisted that the surrender be unconditional.  The Russians insisted on signing another treaty in Berlin on May 8.  The territory controlled by Russia subsequently became communist East Germany, until the Berlin Wall fell in 1968, and Germany was reunited again.

            I also went to the Musˇe de Beaux Arts (photo 41), which had a few paintings and sculptures that I liked, but it didn't allow photographs.  Fortunately I found a photo of one of the sculptures I liked online!

            While walking along the pedestrian street, I saw a colleague and his family having dinner so I joined them to chat, but I wasn't ready to eat so soon after a late lunch.  Later, while reading a posted menu, another colleague came up, and we had dinner together. 


Travel back home

            The next morning, I saw a colleague and his wife in the train station in Reims, and we travelled the first part of the trip on the train together, then had reserved seats apart on the high speed train to the airport (photo 42), which traveled at 304 km/hr  = 189 miles per hour (photo 43).

            On the flight to Los Angeles (photo 44), I again had reserved a seat on an exit row with lots of legroom.  I finished reading the book I had started on the first flight, and again slept a couple hours after dinner, which reduced jetlag later.

            In Los Angeles, seven flights had arrived about the same time, so there were a couple thousand people waiting in lines at the passport control.  It took two hours from the time I landed until I exited to the room where my wife and son were waiting for me, whereas it usually takes about 45 minutes.  At home, I spent the next week catching up on sleep, email, mail, bills, newspapers, laundry, editing photos from the trip, and writing my travel journal. As always, the best part of the trip was seeing friends from previous conferences and meeting new friends!